Thursday, October 18, 2012

From One Dog Person to Another

Clarification: I am not a dog person. I am a 3-dog person.
My first dog actually belonged to my sister. Though Fritz was her dachshund, I loved him, too. He was a playful dog – spoiled, but not fat or lazy. He ran after us kids as fast as his little legs would carry him. He licked my face, I squealed. We hid milk-bone treats for him, and he raced around the house trying to find them. He pooped in the back yard; we cleaned it up. We had a nice back yard with lots of grass, ornamental plants, and fruit trees. Fritzi-poo was not particular about where he did his business, but my dad paid particular attention to how well it was disposed of by all of us kids.  Dad, mechanical engineer that he was, made a Super-Duper-Pooper-Scooper to facilitate the clean-up. It was a long-handled, 2-part device (broom and dustpan, perhaps?) that helped us deliver the contents to the trash can without having to touch it. I may have received some small compensation for scooping poop, but more likely I just had to do my duty after Fritz did his.
After Fritz died, there was a period of doglessness in our household before I got my own puppy, a beagle-terrier mutt with long legs and classic beagle coloring. I chose the name Ajax, after the Greek god I’d read about in Bullfinch’s Mythology, but my sister said people would think my dog was a cleaning product. So I named him Oliver, instead, for the high school musical in which my brother had a starring role as the Artful Dodger (not a good dog name). I fancied myself a puppy whisperer and tried to teach him tricks; I also imagined myself an artist, so I observed Oli from the vantage point of a tree branch, and drew him, in pastel pencil, while he slept. Like Fritz, he pooped in the yard, but he was my dog, and my siblings were older and busier by then. Thus the poop was my responsibility, until my mother and I moved to an apartment and Oliver went begging for another home.
The third dog joined our little family shortly after our daughter was born. He was a gift from dear friends who bred AKC yellow Labradors and had a litter of 10 puppies. They “tithed” one of these pedigreed puppies to us. We named him Erin’s Bonnie Prince Charles, and called him Prince. He was a beautiful broad-chested dog with boundless tail-wagging energy. When not playing with Erin or any number of our visitors, he roamed for miles in the open country of the Navajo reservation where we were then living. He came home several times a day, and spent every night in a fenced rabbit or chicken pen (Doug had transformed it into a suitable dog domain), and some of the day in our sort-of fenced “yard” – a dirt area with a shade tree. We raked, scooped, burned or buried his doo-doo (I’m guessing that’s what Erin may have called it); there was no such thing as municipal trash pick-up.
And that is why, today, many years later and with no dog, I am writing this piece about dog shit. I live in a community that not only has regular waste management services (trash and recycling), but also has convenient little green dispensers throughout the neighborhood (including walking trails) from which citizens can obtain a green plastic bag with which to clean up their dogs’ waste. We also have many reminders, from stern official County Ordinance placards to friendly, hand-made “If you walk our loop, please scoop the poop!” signs.
Why is it, then, that on every one of my walks within a 10-mile radius of my home, I find dog poop? True, I also see deer and rabbit pellets, coyote and bear scat, horse and cow dung…. But none of those offend me as much as the dog crap, especially when it is already encased in a little green bag and left behind a rock or in a bush. I try to imagine what the dog owner is thinking. Her dog stops to do his business; she stands nearby, waiting. Then she does the right thing, pulling the little green bag out of her fanny pack. She puts her hand inside the bag, gently grabs the fresh feces, pulls her hand back out, and knots the bag. So far, so good. But then she leaves the bag on the sidewalk or behind a rock for someone else to pick up and dispose of! [New grammar rule: ranters are allowed to end sentences with prepositions.] There are often trash bins nearby where I spy these green baglets, so there is no excuse for the dog walker not to take the final step in the circle of good citizenship. But even if there is no bin, it is still her responsibility to take the bag with her until she locates a receptacle. Tie it to your dog’s leash! (You DO have your dog on a leash, right?)
If you are a Dog Person, especially one who lives in my neighborhood, please have the decency to clean up after your beloved pet. Or as we say in New Mexico: "Keep the Rio Grand. Scoop the Poop!"

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